HideIpVPN is a VPN and smart DNS service provider that operates out of Europe, but works under US jurisdiction. At the time of writing this review, its VPN server range consists of locations in the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Germany and Canada; while its smart DNS channel selection ranges from a choice of 150 international networks and streaming services, including the most commonly demanded Netflix, HULU, BBC iPlayer, CrunchyRoll, HBO Go, Spotify and Fox.
In this review, we will look at all of the key aspects of HideIpVPN, including its logging policy, methods for securing internet traffic, network performance, custom-built applications and pricing; with the aim to give us, and most importantly, potential customers, a better idea of how the service works and to help our readers decide on whether the service is worth spending money on.
Since their launch in 2009 HideIpVPN have maintained a fairly downsized network, keeping their location range to just a handful of countries; at least in comparison to some of the bigger providers on the virtual private network market, who tend to have endpoints placed around additional global regions, with particular demand coming from Asia.
At the time of writing, HideIpVPN offer server locations in the following countries:
Taking into account that connecting to a VPN server on another continent, and generally a great distance away from the user may significantly reduce service speed, it is worth noting that HideIpVPN’s VPN network is very much optimal for US and Canada East Coast residents, as well as customers living in Western and Central Europe. Connecting to any of the above server clusters from places like China will likely require excellent bandwidth (circa in the region of 50-100Mb/s). Anything lower will noticeably affect the user’s browsing experience.
HideIpVPN does not mention anything about logging on its privacy page. It is possible, however, to source this information in the FAQ section. In response to “What information do you store”, the provider states – “We do store your name and your billing details. We do NOT keep any server logs”. The latter indicates that the company pledges to keep no traffic and no connection logs.
One thing we weren’t too sure was the statement on suspicious orders and orders from ‘high risk’ countries, which may require of the customer to send roof of identity:
HideIPVPN may request proofs of your identity (card ID, driver license, etc.) if the order looks suspicious or if it is made from a high risk country. The refuse to send the required documents will result in termination of your account, without any refund of amounts previously paid for this service.
At a guess, it’s quite unlikely that customers will wish to send scans of photo IDs across the internet to a private VPN company, especially with the initial promise being anonymity. However, if the payment had already gone through, the customer may be compelled to comply, in order not to lose the money.
Key Terms of Service
- Torrent transfers are allowed, but only on Netherlands and Germany servers;
- 3 simultaneous connections allowed per account;
- Failure to successfully connect is acceptable for a refund claim;
- Failure to connect through router not accepted for refund claims;
- Only users of Windows, Mac OS X and Linux may be eligible for refunds;
- OpenVPN: AES 128-bit key encryption with AES 2048-bit certificate;
- SSTP: 256-bit keys with AES 2048-bit certificate;
- L2TP/IPSec: AES 128-bit or 256-bit keys with RSA 2048-bit certificate;
- SoftEther: 256-bit keys with AES 2048-bit certificate;
- PPTP: 128-bit MPEE keys.
SoftEther is a very interesting addition. Like OpenVPN, it isn’t just a protocol either. It is a versatile, open source client that works with Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, FreeBSD and Solaris operating systems. Unlike OpenVPN, the SoftEther client in itself supports all common VPN protocols, including OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, SSTP and EtherIP. It’s native protocol uses HTTPS to establish a tunnel and implements 256-bit SSL keys for encryption. SoftEther actually beats OpenVPN on numerous head-to-head points. To configure HideIpVPN through SoftEther will require downloading the third party SoftEther client, as the protocol isn’t currently available in the native app.
It would have been better to see that OpenVPN was available with 256-bit keys, but perhaps we’ll see it added into the native client in the future. Either way, HideIpVPN reimburses well for this by making 256-bit encryption available through SSTP, SoftEther as well as L2TP/IPSec protocols.
For the test run, we installed the HideIpVPN client on Windows 7. Alongside the client, we were prompted to install OpenVPN TAP drivers, which will enable OpenVPN connections in the app. Mac OS users will be prompted to install analogous TUN drivers instead.
Once the client launched, it gave us the option to use either the VPN or Smart DNS. To begin with, we will look at the VPN client. To authenticate, we entered our username and password, which were sent earlier in an automated email from HideIpVPN.
To ensure that we got the most out of the app, we first looked at available options for optimising the connection and general use of this client. They are Connection, Settings and Application Killer.
This is the primary page of the client and the one users land on following successful authorisation. Here, we are able to choose the protocol between PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, OpenVPN and SSTP.
OpenVPN is the most widely used and recommended protocol, thanks to to a combination of good speed and security, therefore we chose it for our own connection.
Server are selected by clicking on a country flag, below which is a dropdown menu for selecting specific nodes from the regional cluster. The button to connect is located at the bottom, and we will get back to it shortly.
Within Settings are three sub-sections, including Startup Settings, Reconnect Settings and Updates.
Startup Settings include four toggle switches, through which we can set the application to run and/or sign in at system startup. The third option will launch the application in “minimised” mode, permitting only the client’s icon to appear in the task bar.
Reconnect Settings offer two toggle switches, including the option to automatically reconnect should the initial connection suddenly drop. Automating this connectivity process is designed to stop any transfer of unencrypted data, therefore, we tend to make use of it, if a provider makes the feature available. The second option allows us to connect the VPN directly after login.
At the very end is a button for updating the client, which is greyed out until an update becomes available.
3. Application Killer
The client offers an ‘internet killswitch’ that works on a per-app basis. For our example, we selected some commonly used applications: Chrome, Skype and uTorrent. From now on, if the VPN connection drops, the client is instructed to automatically shut down these three apps, cutting off any traffic from going in or out. By ticking the field “Restart on reconnect”, the closed apps will automatically re-launch when we are once again connected to the VPN.
In this section, there are various, external links of interest to the HideIpVPN website, including the Client Area, Knowledgebase section, downloads, and so on. Here, we are also able to check which version of the app is currently running.
Establishing a Connection
Once we’ve tweaked the necessary settings, we headed back to the General section, selected the first UK server, clicked the Connect button and the connection began to establish itself. The entire process took less than ten seconds to complete, after which a notification popped up in the taskbar with the message that we were now connected to the VPN. A quick check confirmed that our device was now using an IP address in a different location.
As previously mentioned, HideIpVPN only permits torrent/P2P traffic through Netherlands and Germany servers. To check which precautions were already taken by HideIpVPN, we launched a test torrent while connected to the UK server. We were pleased to see that the provider has an automatic filter in place, throttling our torrent download speed to a very maximum of 2kb/s. So why is this a good thing?
Some providers will simply suspend the user’s account, regardless of whether s/he was knowingly offending or had accidentally downloaded through the wrong server. It all boils down to VPN companies wanting to avoid receiving DMCA requests from their hosting providers. HideIpVPN, on the other hand, uses a slightly more light-handed approach, simply by throttling torrent traffic on high-risk servers.
During our test, we didn’t encounter any serious flaws, with the exception of one minor glitch that occurred at one point when trying to shut down the client. Having clicked to disconnect, the application crashed by becoming stuck in “Disconnect” mode. Despite re-launching the app several times, the error kept re-occurring. In the end, a full reboot was required, after which, the error no longer appeared.
Results based on test out of Bucharest, Romania with a 100Mb/s fibre optic connection
- Server: London, UK / OpenVPN 128-bit / 36.11Mb/s
- Server: Philadelphia, USA / OpenVPN 128-bit / 15.56Mb/s
- Server: Amsterdam, Netherlands / OpenVPN 128-bit: / 32.73Mb/s
- Server: Frankfurt, Germany / OpenVPN 128-bit / 38.88Mb/s
HideIpVPN’s own speed test comparison between SoftEther and SSTP protocols:
Although initially launched in 2012 as a secondary service, HideIpVPN states that the Smart DNS service is highly popular, in comparison to the VPN. Users can subscribe separately or by purchasing the VPN+Smart DNS combo package.
For those, who are new to the concept, Smart DNS is a service used to change the DNS server address on your device’s network connection in order to unblock geographically restricted content on the web. This resource offers significantly higher speed for streaming purposes, as it doesn’t redirect traffic packets through a a server, like a VPN does. Lack of encryption, however, means that Smart DNS should only be used for bypassing geographic firewalls, and not for security purposes.
At the time of writing this article, the precise number of channels made available by the provider is 146. As mentioned earlier in the summary, among the most popular channels are Netflix (US and UK catalogues), Hulu, Amazon (US and UK catalogues), Vudu, HBO Go, CrunchoRoll (for Anime fans), NFL Game Pass, BBC iPlayer, and the list really does go on. So far, the list comprises of networks and services designated for residents of the United States, United Kingdom and Poland.
We now needed to access HideIpVPN’s Smart DNS service through the application. To do this, we first signed out of the VPN area (button found on the bottom-left of the client window) and then clicked on the Smart DNS section of the client.
At this point, we were prompted to enter our unique Smart DNS key, which can be found in the client area of the HideIpVPN website. It is located in the VPN & Smart DNS Packages section, as shown in the screenshot below:
Having located and entered our key, the app authorised us into the Smart DNS section of the client. Here, we are able to select between USA or Europe-based DNS servers, effectively changing our IP address to one of the regions. As a secondary option, the application lets us keep the DNS server in one of the two regions, while changing the virtual IP to either USA or UK. One thing we didn’t spot, was the choice to pick Poland.
To test how it works, we pretended to try and access BBC iPlayer, a service restricted to UK residents, spoofing ourselves as residents of the United States.
We first connected to a US VPN, changing our IP. We then selected any random show from the iPlayer catalogue. As expected, we were greeted by a familiar message telling us that the player is only available in the UK.
We then switched the Smart DNS on within the application, using DNS servers in Europe (for faster connection) and a UK IP address. Below is a screenshot of what the app looks like when the Smart DNS is up and running.
Having switched on the Smart DNS, our network settings were altered. Despite us still being connected to a US VPN, iPlayer was now available to view. The same principle would apply in the opposite scenario. If somebody was outside of the United States but needed to spoof having a US IP over Smart DNS would be able to do so by switching over to “USA” in the app. Below is a screenshot of the result:
From the point of installing and running the HideIpVPN client, we only really encountered one issue, and as we found out, wasn’t entirely HideIpVPN’s fault, but an existing installation of the OpenVPN TAP adapter (installed as part of a software package from another VPN provider).
Whilst installing HideIpVPN, we kept encountering an error telling us that OpenVPN adapter failed to install. This didn’t stop the application from installing. But with this error unresolved, we were not able to connect using OpenVPN.
We checked the provider’s website to see if their support team was available by IM chat and were pleasantly surprised that they were online quite late for a European timezone. After requesting to see the logs, the support agent asked if they could try resolve the issue with remote access via Teamviewer. Quite quickly, the agent successfully identified that the problem belonged to a crashed OpenVPN process, leftover from another provider’s installation. A reboot and full re-installation of the client solved the problem.
Pricing for a standard one month subscription is as follows:
- US VPN or UK VPN or Canada VPN or P2P/BitTorrent VPN [$5.99 /month]
- VPN + Smart DNS bundle: [$9.99 /month]
Based on our experience, the price is below average for both separate packages as well as the bundle plan. Most VPN providers tend to offer VPN alone for around $10. The obvious, potential sacrifice with this service for users is having access to a fairly limited number of servers. Yet, if the locations offered by HideIpVPN are just the ones required by you as the user, then we’re inclined to say that this is a good deal.
A major plus point is that HideIpVPN offer a free, 24-hour trial of its VPN and a 7-day free trial of Smart DNS.
Payment options range between credit/debit card, Bitcoin, AliPay, WebMoney, Yandex Money, Boleto Bancario and Qiwi.